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Doctoral Thesis, Linköping University, Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine
On 26 April 1986 an accident occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant resulting in the release of large amount of radionuclides. Almost five percent of the total released caesium-137 was deposited in Sweden. The incidence of malignancies in the most affected counties in Sweden was investigated in three epidemiological studies.
In the first study the incidence of malignancies in children and adolescents was studied for the period 1978-1992. The parishes and their inhabitants were classified according to the ground deposition of caesium-137 on an analogue map provided be the Swedish Radiological Protection Authority. A continuous increase of brain tumour incidence observed during the time of the study had no clear relationship to the Chernobyl fallout. A somewhat decreased relative risk of ALL was observed in areas with increased deposition. Other malignancies showed no changes in incidence over time or with regard to the exposure of caesium-137. In study II and III we enlarged the study base by including adults. We improved the methodology by defining a cohort of subjects who lived in the same parish from 31 December 1985 to 31 December 1987. The inhabitants from seven counties were included. Parishes were classified the same way as in study I. Due to the large number of individuals six exposure categories could be created; <3, 3–29, 30–39, 40–59, 60–79, and 80–120 kBq caesium-137/m2. The inhabitants of the 117 non-affected parishes (<3 kBq/m2) served as reference. During the 1988-1996 followup, 22,409 malignancies were recorded. The MH-IRR in the fully adjusted model was 1.00 (reference), 1.05, 1.03, 1.08, 1.10 and 1.21, respectively. ERR was 0.11 per 100 kBq/m2 (95% CL 0.03;0.20). A more advanced method was used in Study III by ignoring the exposure classification for parishes, and instead matching the dwelling coordinate to a digital map of deposition of casesium-137. In spite of a more valid exposure classification the risk estimates were similar in study II and III. Also, the ERR during the longer follow-up of 1988-1999 was almost identical, 0.10 per 100 kBq/m2 (95% CL 0.00;0.23). The strongest dose-response relationship was seen in the first four years (1988-1991). No obvious excess for leukaemia or thyroid cancer was recognised in either study II or III. The estimated number of exposure related cases was calculated to 849 in study II and 1,278 in study III. Our interpretation is that we have shown an increased incidence of total malignancies with dose-response relationship for caesium-137, only a few years after the Chernobyl accident. In study IV we compared the two different ways of classifying the exposure in study II and III. Out of the 450 parishes 111 got a different classification. The similar risk estimates in study II and III could probably be explained by relatively homogenous exposure in the parishes making the intra-parish difference less influential, especially when included in categories. In study V we examined the urinary excretion of 8-OHdG in Belarussian children from areas with high and low fallout of caesium-137, respectively. We found significantly lower urinary 8-OHdG levels in children from rural contaminated areas compared to urban uncontaminated areas, suggesting an urban, rather than a radiation related, risk factor.
Using the Hill criteria for causality there is support for a causal inference between the fallout of caesium-137 from the Chernobyl accident and the increased incidence in total malignancies in Northern Sweden.